Webcast Q and A

"Megan, any comments on leadership development in the UCC?"

I firmly believe that leadership development starts in the local church, with pastors and members of the congregation developing opportunities for people (both young and old) to participate in the life of the church in meaningful ways. It has been my observation that as a church we are pretty good at finding ways to involve children in worship, and young adults in performance type ways (such as singing in choirs, dancing, skits). We will only benefit further from involving young people in leadership opportunities in their local church, such as offering them board or committee membership, asking for sermon reflections or making them delegates to national or conference gatherings. The more you develop leadership in the local church, the easier it will be for people to step into leadership position at the conference or national level. Most importantly, we need to continue to support and encourage our leaders at all settings of the church as they discern and answer their own call to ministry, whatever that might be.

Alternative Paths to Ministry?

Lynn Bujnak, Minister for Vocation and Formation replies

Yes, we are moving forward with implementing the General Synod Pronouncement "Ministry Issues: Forming and Preparing Leaders for God's Church." This Pronouncement focuses on five major leadership areas including paths of preparation for ordained ministry. It was passed by General Synod in 2005 and a broadly representative group has been working on its implementation with support for Parish Life and Leadership of Local Church Ministries. The first draft documents designed to assist Committee on the Ministry in discerning appropriate paths of preparation and assessing readiness for ordination are currently in the hands of Conference and Association staff for feedback and review. In February of 2007 working drafts of these documents will be distributed to Committees on the Ministry for testing and further feedback. You can read the text of the Pronouncement at the following URL:

Comments on Leadership Development

Lynn Bujnak, Minister for Vocation and Formation replies

As a denomination we remained committed to identifying, nurturing and supporting excellent leaders for a variety of ministry settings, including local church pastors. There are resources to help persons interested in ministry discern their sense of call on www.askthequestion.org. There is an emphasis on reminding local church members and pastors that it is important that we regain our commitment to calling forth the next generation of leaders by "asking the question" of the gifted men and women in our churches. Have you considered that God may be calling YOU to ministry? We are also seeing a growing and strengthened partnership in the formation and preparation of leaders between local churches, Association Committees on the Ministry and our UCC seminaries. In addition, the Ministry Issues Pronouncement (see URL) has a significant impact on leadership development not only during formation but in strengthening a commitment to life long learning and to UCC identity in all our ordained, licensed and commissioned ministers.

"With tears in my eyes, I can only say that we have a much more exciting 50 years ahead. How are we designing our future to meet this challenge? There are so many of us that want to be a part!"

A Tamil woman living in Australia tells of her childhood school, the first school for women in Asia started nearly 200 years ago by our missionaries. The Uduvil School in Sri Lanka continues to change the lives of women today—expanding their choices and control over their lives, encouraging them to express their own ideas. Because of the Uduvil School here is great hope for these beautiful people. Our global mission effort seeks to carry out the example of our mission ancestors in making education and health care available for all. This is surely God's gift, and there is enough to share!

"What is your most fervent prayer for the UCC?"

Our global mission prayer is a hopeful affirmation that we all can become more aware of the many needs in our global community, and then take action to tell our mission stories. We pray that each UCC member will grow in their commitment to compassionate action in the name of Jesus Christ, and every congregation become a spirit–empowered influence in the world.

"What expression best describes the UCC? a) enthusiastic, b) energetic, c) creative."

Energetically Hopeful! "God is great; God is good; glory to God!" That is the shout of joy we heard sung by Polycarpe Joseph, Founder of House of Hope – the Ecumenical Center for Peace and Justice in Port-au-Prince, Haiti to Global Ministries. He continued, "Our staff, partners, and all our children join with your voices to give thanks. Thanks for choosing to work with the poorest of the world; thanks for choosing to come to our country to do ministry; thanks for your efforts to reduce poverty in developing countries, and; many, many thanks for proclaiming, as did Jesus, the Good News. May the God of life and of the poor give you many blessings. Keep going further as God is with you now and always." These words from our mission partners give us renewed energy and hope.

"How many congregations are currently in the UCC? And how many members does this represent?"

Our latest official count, as of the end of 2005, is that we have 5,633 congregations (which we refer to as Local Churches), containing a total of 1.2 million members (1,229,953 members, to be exact).

Once year-end reports come in from our Local Churches and our regional bodies, which are called Conferences, updated figures will become available sometime in the spring of 2007.

"What is the UCC's belief on personal salvation?"

On very basic questions of faith such as this one, some people are disappointed to learn that the United Church of Christ does not have the kind of detailed, doctrinal, denomination-wide answer that some other religious traditions have. That is because such questions are thought to be best discussed by the gathered community of faith called the Local Church, which is the United Church of Christ's "basic unit." Salvation is mentioned in some basic documents of the whole United Church of Christ. The UCC's widely used Statement of Faith – which, importantly, is considered a "testimony" but not a "test" of faith – describes salvation as initiated by God, who seeks "in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin." In the preamble to its Constitution, the UCC acknowledges Jesus Christ, its "sole head," as Savior. Likewise, in Article V of the Constitution, a Local Church is defined as being composed of persons who believe in God and accept Jesus Christ "as Lord and Savior." Later, however the same article of the Constitution guarantees each Local Church autonomy "in the management of its own affairs," which, among other things, include the right "to formulate its own covenants and confessions of faith." So, as is the case with so many things in the United Church of Christ, the best way to find out more about salvation and other matters of faith is to visit a Local Church.

"What was the first UCC church?"

The oldest congregation in the United Church of Christ is West Parish of Barnstable, located in West Barnstable, Massachusetts. It was founded as a Congregationalist church in 1616 in Southwark, England, then moved to North America in the 1630s. You can read more of that history at West Parish's website: westparish.org/history.

Another way of answering the question is to identify the first congregation to be founded as a member of the United Church of Christ as we know it today. It would most likely be one of the following 19, all founded in 1957. If anyone would like to write in with the days and months of the founding of these congregations, perhaps we can identify which one was closest to the date of June 25, 1957, the founding date of the United Church of Christ.

Churches organized in 1957

Phoenix, Ariz.: West Congregational United Church of Christ
Carlsbad, Calif.: Pilgrim United Church of Christ
Fremont, Calif.: Fremont Congregational United Church of Christ
Redding, Calif.: Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ
San Diego: Community Congregational Church of Pacific Beach, UCC
San Francisco: First Samoan Congregational United Church of Christ
Pueblo, Colo.: Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Honolulu: Waiokeola Congregational United Church of Christ
Kailua, Hawaii – Kailua Christian Church, United Church of Christ
Bethesda, Md. – Bethesda United Church of Christ
Ann Arbor, Mich. – Church of the Good Shepherd, United Church of Christ
Grand Rapids, Mich. – Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ
Mendota Heights, Minn. – Congregational United Church of Christ
Columbus, Ohio – Trinity United Church of Christ
Toledo, Ohio – Faith Community United Church of Christ
Oklahoma City – Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ
Starview, Pa. – United Church of Christ
Warminster, Pa. – United Church of Christ
Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico – Caparra Terrace United Church of Christ

"How can we build on and sustain the feeling of connection generated by this vibrant webcast?"

Here are just a few ideas, for starters:

For those who can do it, a great way to keep the feeling going is to start planning and fund-raising now to attend the 50th anniversary celebration surrounding the General Synod in Hartford, Connecticut, June 22-26, 2007. See details on the General Synod page and the Synod in the City page.

Part of the beauty of the webcast was that so many people got together to watch it. So keep on gathering this year – as a Local Church, or with other Local Churches, or as a group within a Local Church. Share meals together! Resources for celebrating and thinking about who we are as the United Church of Christ at 50 can be found here - [hey, PIC folks: insert links here for (1) "UCC @ 50"; (2) that 50th-anniversary resource that was advertised in the December all-church mailing; (3) the 50th-anniversary DVD; (4) "In Prayer: A Devotional Calendar for 2007"; and (5) ucc.org/ucnews/jan07/across.htm] .

Invite a speaker from the wider United Church of Christ: from your Association, your Conference, or the national setting of the church. With enough advance notice, you may be able to find guest preachers or speakers for more than one Sunday worship service, Christian education class, Lenten forum, coffee hour, potluck dinner, governance meeting, or other similar gathering of members of a Local Church or several Local Churches. Some Conferences are taking the lead in organizing such opportunities.

Get someone in your church to take and submit a contribution to the 50th Anniversary photo mosaic. Or, create and submit a "UCC-Tube" video - youtube.com/group/unitedchurchofchrist. Watch those collections grow as more and more churches contribute!

"Congratulations, UCC. 50 years – let it shine! John, would you color your hair red if youth and young adults (under 35) outnumber those over 35 at Hartford's General Synod?"

John Thomas replies

"Absolutely. I'm tired of gray, on my head and at church meetings, and it would make for a nice Stillspeaking statement."

"I'd like to change my question slightly. If John Thomas won't color his hair, would Hans take his place by coloring his hair red?"

John Thomas replies

"Hans will shave his head and paint it red."

Hans Holznagel replies

"Um, hair color? Yes. Shave and paint? No. And I want to know who's counting. That said, bring it on, youth and young adults!"

"With tears in my eyes, I can only say that we have a much more exciting 50 years ahead. How are we designing our future to meet this challenge? There are so many of us that want to be a part!"

John Thomas replies

"We need to be constantly asking the question, 'What is God's mission for our time and place and how can the United Church of Christ participate in that? What is our unique contribution to that mission? How can we partner with others ecumenically?' I think a disciplined attentiveness to that question, as opposed to 'how can we fix our problems,' would be liberating."

"What is your most fervent prayer for the UCC?"

John Thomas replies

"That we may be a people of extravagant welcome and evangelical courage even as we learn to honor and respect one another in the midst of our sometimes difficult diversity."

"What expression best describes the UCC? a) enthusiastic, b) energetic, c) creative."

John Thomas replies

"I guess I would choose 'b) energetic,' though if I could add another, I'd go with 'spiritually audacious!'"

"God is Still Speaking campaign helped our new church start to grow – we want to know what the next programmatic step is to keep the interest and involvement going."

Marilyn Dubasak, coordinator of The Stillspeaking Initiative, replies

1. You want to get yourself to God is still speaking, Ready, Set, Grow training! Designed for churches that want to take Stillspeaking further, go deeper, and enjoy more vitality, new training and resources are ready for 2007. Here's more - stillspeaking.com/resources/traintrainer07.htm Resources always online at the Ready, Set, Grow website - www.uccvitality.org

2. Tools for Churches - stillspeaking.com/resources/ are always available to connect you with lots of ways to expand your church's invitation and extravagant hospitality -- from theological reflections on our ads to Ideas that Work to spread the good news about the United Church of Christ to vacation bible study on identity.